D-day: the utah beach landings

Utah Beach is one of the two American landing zones in Normandy. This beach was created by British general Bernard Montgomery who wished to establish a beachhead directly in the Cotentin peninsula in order to capture Cherbourg faster, because of its deep water harbor and its major logistic importance.

Involved forces

There are two sectors on Utah: Uncle Red and Tare Green, located between the towns of Les Dunes-de-Varreville (North) and La Madeleine (South).

These beaches are defended by the 709th german infantry division which has installed seven strongpoints.

Two coastal artillery batteries, located at Montebourg and Saint-Marcouf, can open fire on this beach, since these guns have a firing range of almost 30 kilometers.

D-Day: The Utah Beach Landings American soldiers on their way to Normandy. Photo: US National Archives

The 7th U.S. Army of Major General J. Lawton Collins will be engaged first. It is composed of the 8th, 22nd and 12nd infantry regiments of the 4th american infantry division led by Major General Raymond O. Barton.

These units will launch the attack of Utah Beach on D-Day in order to capture the landing beach sectors, then to establish a solid beachhead and to carry out the junction with the airborne troops of the 82nd and 101st American airborne divisions.

D-Day: The Utah Beach Landings American soldiers boarding the landing crafts at dawn. Photo: US National Archives

The assault must take place early in the morning at 6.30, a timetable that corresponds to the lowest tide. The Allies voluntarily choose this moment because the defenses of beaches installed by the Germans are clearly visible at low tide. Thus, the engineers can clear breaches on the beach in order to disembark the reinforcements.

D-Day: The Utah Beach Landings After boarding the landing crafts, American soldiers await the order of departure. Photo: US National Archives

The assault

Tuesday June 6, at 3 o’clock in the morning, the U fleet (Utah) arrives near the Cotentin beaches and damps at approximately 18 kilometers off the coast, a distance which limits the effectiveness of the German coastal batteries.

The sunrise comes at 05:58 a.m. exactly, 28 minutes after the beginning of the bombardment of the German positions by the allied warships. This huge bombardment follows air raids carried out by thousand of allied bombers.

D-Day: The Utah Beach Landings American assault wave preparing to land on the beach. Photo: US National Archives

American soldiers of the 1st and 2nd Battalions (8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division) who have embarked into the landing crafts are witnessing these bombardments which plow the French soil and fill the sky with immense plumes of smoke. Even though many of them suffer from a terrible seasickness, they are relieved to see their objectives under such a rain of steel.

D-Day: The Utah Beach Landings A landing craft makes its way to Utah Beach. Photo: US National Archives

Two squadrons of amphibious “duplex drive” tanks are launched three kilometers from the shore and have to reach the beach areas by their own means thanks to two propellers and a rubber skirt. They progress in two waves of assault: the first one is composed of twelve “duplex drive” tanks and the second one is composed of sixteen identical tanks).

But the amphibious tanks are falling behind and are soon overtaken by the landing craft of the 2nd Battalion which take the lead of the offensive on the beach area nicknamed “Uncle Red”.

D-Day: The Utah Beach Landings The first wave finally reaches Utah Beach. Photo: US National Archives

The 2nd Battalion lands on “Uncle Red” sector south-east of Saint-Martin-de-Varreville. The 1st Battalion lands fifteen minutes later on “Tare Green” beach area, east of Saint-Martin-de-Varreville, simultaneously with the amphibious tanks belonging to the 70th Tank Battalion (squadrons A and B). The latter reach the beach and immediately engage the opposing positions.

During the first minutes of the 4th Infantry Division’s landing on Utah Beach, the German shots are numerous but not very precise. Gradually, German machine guns leave room for random but deadly explosions of shells fired by field guns belonging to the German 709. Infantry Division.

D-Day: The Utah Beach Landings Aerial view of the American landing on Utah Beach. Photo: US National Archives

These guns open fire from positions a few kilometers west of the landing beach (notably near Brécourt manor) and are camouflaged so that the Allied aircraft patrolling the Norman sky do not spot them.

Very quickly, the beach is under control. The tide is low and discovers the beach defenses over a distance of nearly 300 meters between the dunes and the sea. The fifth assault wavelands half an hour after H Hour. At 7:30 am, engineers open gaps through the beach obstacles allowing the landing crafts to approach without a hitch.

D-Day: The Utah Beach Landings
Utah Beach map
(Click on picture to enlarge)

D-Day: The Utah Beach Landings Landing of elements of the 4th American infantry division. Photo: US National Archives

A strong marine current

Brigadier Theodore Roosevelt Jr., eldest son of US President Theodore Roosevelt, landed with the first assault wave. Major General Raymond O.

Barton quickly realized, after discussing with his staff officers, that the sea current had deported the assault boats and that the American soldiers disembarked 2 kilometers south of the originally planned point on the invasion plan.

Indeed, they are not north of the Madeleine as planned but to the south of this village, facing the German W5 strongpoint.

D-Day: The Utah Beach Landings Landing of reinforcements of men, equipment and vehicles on Utah Beach. Photo: US National Archives

Only one road leads to the inland from this area of the beach, while to the north of this site there are three more. The question is posed: will the reinforcements land on the beach provided by the plan or will they land south of the village of Madeleine? Barton indicates that the reinforcements must follow the assault troops whatever the landing point.

A German strongpoint destroyed by the allied bombardments. Photo: US National Archives

Attempts to break into the north were repulsed by the German forces, supported by the firing of the Montebourg and Saint-Marcouf batteries.

Major General Barton decides to advance inland by using this only road, despite the risks of congestion.

Indeed, 30,000 American soldiers and 3,500 vehicles must be landed on Utah Beach during the day, and the simple country road, isolated between marshes, seems insufficient to support such a force.

An American vehicle lands on Utah Beach. Photo: US National Archives

Meanwhile, American tanks are waiting for military engineers to destroy the anti-tank walls before continuing their advance. Two hours after H-hour, at 8:30 am, they cross the dune and move inland.

A team of American stretcher-bearers arrives on the barely secured beach. Photo: US National Archives

While small arms fire has become rare on the beach, mortar explosions and German artillery continue to kill. This desperate harassment by the Germans continues until the end of the evening.

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A shell fired by a German howitzer explodes on the Utah Beach during the landing. Photo: US National Archives

Review of the landing

At the end of the day of June 6, 1944 on Utah Beach, 1,700 vehicles and nearly 23,250 American soldiers have landed. The loss account reached 197 killed and 60 missing.

Americans advance along exit number 1. Photo: US National Archives

Amphibious tanks have provided essential support on this beach, providing immediate fire support for the infantry at the initial stage of the landing (during which the balance of power is particularly unfavorable for the attacker) and when progressing to the inland. The Germans were impressed by the landing of tanks, which seriously undermined their morale and reduced their fighting value. 28 of the 32 tanks planned for the first wave attack managed to land, clearing the German support points with a large firepower.

American soldiers in “fox holes”, waiting for a possible German counter-attack. Photo: US National Archives

At the end of the day, the landed troops carried out their junction with the airborne troops of the 82nd and 101st american airborne divisions. The landing on the sector of Utah Beach is the most successful one of the five allied beaches in Normandy.

The amphibious troops crossing the main road between the marshes. Photo: US National Archives

The Utah Beach D-Day Museum

The Utah Beach Landings Museum is situated on the site of a former German strongpoint that was crushed by the U.S. assault force on Utah Beach in the morning of D-Day, 6 June 1944. Among a lot of war related items, this museum features a rare Martin B 26 ‘Marauder’, an American medium-size bomber.

The Utah Beach Landings Museum, which opened its doors to the public in 1962, was built on the site of the former German strongpoint that was eliminated by the U.S. assault force on D-Day. It has been extended and renovated since and reopened its doors in 2011.

The museum features a wide range of German and American war items related to the military engagements which took place during the D-Day landing in the morning of 6 June 1944 on Utah Beach. The 4th U.S.

Infantry Division and its 8th Infantry Regiment are specially emphasized, as they were the first to set foot on this beach.

A reconstruction of the moments that made history is created around an American landing craft. Particular attention is paid to the U.S. Corps of Engineers who cleared the beach of dangerous obstacles and fatal traps set up by the German forces.

War related objects and pictures remind us that this beach also played a major role in the war of logistics.

Indeed, the flat bottomed landing crafts could easily be driven ashore at low tide to unload their freight and transport troops before taking to the open sea at high tide.

A space is also dedicated to the 101st U.S. Airborne Division which liberated the area of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont where the museum stands.

Finally, the museum features a rare Martin B26 G ‘Marauder’, an American twin-engined medium bomber. This plane is the central exhibit of the museum, as no more than six of them can be found in the world. It stands as a reminder of the crucial contribution of Allied Air Forces, and as a salute to their victories during and following the Utah Beach landing.

The Utah Beach D-Day Museum D-Day: The Utah Beach Landings D-Day: The Utah Beach Landings D-Day: The Utah Beach Landings D-Day: The Utah Beach Landings D-Day: The Utah Beach Landings D-Day: The Utah Beach Landings D-Day: The Utah Beach Landings Previous Next

Utah Beach

D-Day: The Utah Beach Landings

An aerial photograph of US troops landing at Utah Beach. (Photo: Conseil Régional de Basse-Normandie / US National Archives)

D-Day: The Utah Beach Landings

An aerial photograph of US troops landing at Utah Beach. (Photo: Conseil Régional de Basse-Normandie / US National Archives)

  • Airborne landings begin 0015
    H-Hour, beach landings 0630
  • Lead Allied assault forces
    Airborne landings: 82nd & 101st US Airborne Divisions
  • Beach landings: 4th US Infantry Division
  • German defenders
    Troops from 709th Infantry Division, 91st Airlanding Division and 6th Parachute Regiment
  • Objectives
    Only four causeways lead away from the beach through an area that has been flooded by the German defenders.

The US Airborne forces land early in the morning to take control of the inland ends of these causeways, as well as other key roads and bridges. They then have to hold these objectives until troops from the beach landings can reach them.

The first airborne pathfinders (101st US Airborne Division) land by parachute and quickly set up beacons to guide in the main body of airborne troops. The main body of 101st US Airborne Division begins landing by parachute and glider several miles behind the beaches. Many of the airborne troops are widely scattered and will take hours to re-group. Some paratroopers drop into flooded areas and drown. D-Day: The Utah Beach Landings The main force of 82nd US Airborne Division begins landing. Some land in and around the town of Sainte Mère Église, a key objective. Heavy bombers of RAF Bomber Command attack German coastal gun batteries near Utah Beach. Their aim is to disable these batteries so they cannot fire on US troops who will land on the beaches in a few hours' time. D-Day: The Utah Beach Landings

  See collections item

This Royal Navy cap belonged to Sub Lieutenant John Ellis. He was first lieutenant on board Landing Craft, Tank (LCT) 2130 which landed US troops on Utah Beach on D-Day.

Landing ships miles offshore begin lowering the landing craft that will take the assault infantry to the beach. Many troops have to climb down cargo nets from the ships into the landing craft. D-Day: The Utah Beach Landings First waves of landing craft head for the beach. Allied warships begin firing their guns against the German defences. There are exchanges of fire between several warships and German coastal guns. Support landing craft begin firing guns and rockets against German defences along the beach. D-Day: The Utah Beach Landings The first US troops (8th Regimental Combat Team) come ashore on schedule, but land at least 1,500 yards to the south of the intended sector. Fortunately this area is more lightly defended than their original objective. Shortly afterwards, most DD (swimming) tanks land successfully, though later than originally planned. Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt orders in follow-up troops. He decides to continue at the new landing site rather than reverting to the original one. US engineers are clearing beach obstacles so that follow-up landing craft can get to the beach in more safety. US troops begin moving off the beach, along two of the four causeways. Meanwhile further inland, German forces fiercely counter-attack the positions held by US airborne troops. D-Day: The Utah Beach Landings As US troops advance further inland there is still some German resistance and artillery fire. Some Americans wade through flooded areas in order to reach their objectives. US troops advancing off the beach link-up with 101st US Airborne Division. Utah Beach: At the end of D-Day: 

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JUNE 6 1944: D-DAY AT UTAH BEACH – UTAH BEACH

THE AIR FORCES

Immediately following the naval bombardment, a squadron of bombers enters into action.

From 6:10 to 6:25 A.M., B26 bombers from the 9th USAAF pound the enemy lines on three miles of coastline, flying at low altitude and parallel to the coast to ensure their accuracy.

During this time, the Free French Air Force’s (FAFL) Lorraine Fighter Group spreads a smoke screen between the coast and the ships of Force U to prevent the German artillery positions from accurately firing on the ships.

The FAFL Berry Fighter Group patrols above the battlefield to defend against any possible threat from the German Luftwaffe.

Timing of the operation is critical. The first landing craft are scheduled to land at 6:30 A.M., only five minutes after the last bombs are to be dropped from the B26 bombers. Any deviation from the attack schedule will put Allied soldiers at risk from friendly fire. It is a high-risk mission, performed to great precision by exceptional men.

One of these men is Major David Dewhurst. Squadron commander of the 386th Bomb Group, his mission is to lead the final bombing run over Utah Beach just five minute before H-Hour. An original B-26 painted in the colors of his plane, the “Dinah Might,” is housed in the custom-designed hangar at the Museum.

Born in San Antonio, Texas, Dewhurst graduated from the University of Texas in 1940. At the age of 22, David Dewhurst decided to enlist in the Air Force–six months before the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. Noted for his flying skills, he will join the 386th Bombardment Group, the “Crusaders,” and during his state-side training he contributes to the development of the B26 Marauder.

After marrying Martha Harris, he is sent with his crew aboard their B26 Marauder “Dinah Might” to the air base of Great Dunmow in England. He will be named squadron leader, and would be promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-colonel by the end of the war. Over the course of the battle to liberate Europe Dewhurst will accomplish 85 combat missions against the Germans.

  • One of the highlights of his military career will come on D-Day: five minutes before H-hour, his squadron undertakes a high-risk bombing run to drop 96 tons of bombs directly on German stronghold WN5 defending the Allied landing point, greatly contributing to the success of the landing on Utah Beach.
  • Back in Texas, David Dewhurst will be killed in a car accident shortly after the war, leaving behind two young sons, David and Eugene.
  • D-Day: The Utah Beach Landings D-Day: The Utah Beach Landings D-Day: The Utah Beach Landings

The American airborne operation and Utah Beach on D-Day

D-Day, 6 June, 1944, a most important date where the liberation of Europe is concerned. On this day the largest amphibious landing in history took place on the continent. During Operation Overlord allied soldiers set foot on French territory.

The target was breaking through Hitler’s Atlantikwall. By following this route you will pay a one-day-visit to the most important places of interest in the sector of the American airborne operation and Utah Beach on D-Day.

Introduction

On D-Day the first American wave of attack consisted of five divisions, three infantry divisions and two airborne divisions. With the three infantry divisions the Americans took two of the five landing beaches on their account, Utah and Omaha Beach. Both airborne divisions, the 82nd and the 101st Airborne Division, and the 4th Infantry Division which was to land on Utah Beach were part of the American VII Corps, who’s target was the capturing of the port of Cherbourg.
D-Day: The Utah Beach Landings
Overview of the landing locations on D-Day. Source: Peter Boellaard.

The American airborne operation.

The American airborne operation in Normandy had been divided into two missions, Mission Albany for the 101st Airborne Division and Mission Boston for the 82nd Airborne Division. The target of the two airborne divisions was to secure the west flank of the five landing beaches. This operation was carried out by approximately 13,100 soldiers of the American 101st and 82nd Airborne Division.

Utah Beach

For the supplying of the landed forces, it was necessary that the allies would get a deep sea harbor in their control within short notice. Cherbourg was such a harbor and that is the reason that Operation Overlord planned a landing on Utah Beach. Utah was a sandy beach with a concrete sea wall structure, behind which grassy sand dunes were situated. At low water tide, the beach was approximately 820 yards wide. Utah was separated from the other landing beaches by the double river mouth of the rivers Douvre and Vire.

#PuntBezienswaardigheid
A Startpunt German War Cemetery La Cambe
German War Cemetery La Cambe
Every story has two sides and that’s why we visit the German War Cemetery La Cambe on this day. The cemetery was finished in September 1961. From then onwards another 700 German soldiers have been recovered and buried here. In total 21,160 German soldiers have been buried here, of whom 207 have not been identified. One of the most famous graves is the grave of tank-ace Michael Wittmann. D-Day: The Utah Beach Landings
A place to dwell, the German War Cemetery La Cambe. Photo: Jeroen Koppes.

In the middle of the graveyard is a hill with a memorial with the text: “Gott hat das letzte Wort”.

B Waypoint 2nd Combat Medics (501 PIR) Memorial
The little church of Angoville-au-Plain

History | D-Day | June 6, 1944 | The United States Army

The Normandy beaches were chosen by planners because they lay within range of air cover, and were less heavily defended than the obvious objective of the Pas de Calais, the shortest distance between Great Britain and the Continent.

Airborne drops at both ends of the beachheads were to protect the flanks, as well as open up roadways to the interior. Six divisions were to land on the first day; three U.S., two British and one Canadian. Two more British and one U.S.

division were to follow up after the assault division had cleared the way through the beach defenses.

Disorganization, confusion, incomplete or faulty implementation of plans characterized the initial phases of the landings.

This was especially true of the airborne landings which were badly scattered, as well as the first wave units landing on the assault beaches.

To their great credit, most of the troops were able to adapt to the disorganization. In the end, the Allies achieved their objective.

D-Day: The Utah Beach Landings

Unit: 18th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division.

Citation: For gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty on 6 June 1944, in the vicinity of St. Laurent-sur-Mer, France. On the morning of D-day Pvt. Barrett, landing in the face of extremely heavy enemy fire, was forced to wade ashore through neck-deep water.

Disregarding the personal danger, he returned to the surf again and again to assist his floundering comrades and save them from drowning. Refusing to remain pinned down by the intense barrage of small-arms and mortar fire poured at the landing points, Pvt.

Barrett, working with fierce determination, saved many lives by carrying casualties to an evacuation boat Iying offshore. In addition to his assigned mission as guide, he carried dispatches the length of the fire-swept beach; he assisted the wounded; he calmed the shocked; he arose as a leader in the stress of the occasion.

His coolness and his dauntless daring courage while constantly risking his life during a period of many hours had an inestimable effect on his comrades and is in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army.

D-Day: The Utah Beach Landings

Unit: 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division

Landing at Normandy: The 5 Beaches of D-Day

Utah Beach
The westernmost of the D-Day beaches, Utah was added to the invasion plans at the eleventh hour so that the Allies would be within striking distance of the port city of Cherbourg. In the predawn darkness of June 6, thousands of U.S. paratroopers dropped inland behind enemy lines.

Weighed down by their heavy equipment, many drowned in the flooded marshlands at the rear of the beach, and others were shot out of the sky by enemy fire. One even hung from a church steeple for two hours before being captured. Those who landed, meanwhile, often found themselves outside of their designated drop zones.

Forced to improvise, they nonetheless succeeded in seizing the four causeways that served as the beach’s only exit points. On Utah itself, U.S. forces landed more than a mile away from their intended destination, due in part to strong currents. Luckily for them, this area was actually less well protected.

“We’ll start the war from here!” U.S. Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr., the son of former President Theodore Roosevelt, shouted upon realizing the mistake.

By noon, his men had linked up with some of the paratroopers, and by day’s end they had advanced four miles inland, suffering relatively few casualties in the process.

Omaha Beach
Surrounded by steep cliffs and heavily defended, Omaha was the bloodiest of the D-Day beaches, with roughly 2,400 U.S. troops turning up dead, wounded or missing. The troubles for the Americans began early on, when Army intelligence underestimated the number of German soldiers in the area.

To make matters worse, an aerial bombardment did little damage to the strongly fortified German positions, rough surf wreaked havoc with the Allied landing craft and only two of 29 amphibious tanks launched at sea managed to reach the shore. U.S.

infantrymen in the initial waves of the attack were then gunned down in mass by German machine-gun fire. The carnage became so severe that U.S. Lieutenant General Omar Bradley considered abandoning the entire operation.

Slowly but surely, however, his men began making it across the beach to the relative safety of the seawall at the foot of the bluffs and then up the bluffs themselves.

Assistance came from a group of Army Rangers who scaled a massive promontory between Omaha and Utah to take out artillery pieces stashed in an orchard, and from U.S. warships that moved perilously close to shore to fire shells at the German fortifications. By nightfall, the Americans had carved out a tenuous toehold about 1.5 miles deep.

Gold Beach
Owing to the direction of the tides, British troops began storming Gold, the middle of the five D-Day beaches, nearly an hour after fighting got underway at Utah and Omaha.

The Germans initially put up robust resistance, but in sharp contrast to Omaha, an earlier aerial bombardment had wiped out much of their defenses. British warships also proved effective.

The cruiser HMS Ajax, for example, displayed such pinpoint accuracy from miles away that it apparently sent one shell through a small slot in a German artillery battery’s concrete exterior—the military equivalent of a hole-in-one.

On shore, meanwhile, armored vehicles known as “Funnies” cleared away minefields and other obstacles. Within an hour, the British had secured a few beach exits, and from there they rapidly pushed inland. They also captured the fishing village of Arromanches, which days later became the site of an artificial harbor used by the Allies to unload supplies.

Juno Beach
At Juno, Allied landing craft once again struggled with rough seas, along with offshore shoals and enemy mines. Upon finally disembarking, Canadian soldiers were then cut down in droves by Germans firing from seaside houses and bunkers.

The first hour was particularly brutal, with a casualty rate approaching 50 percent for the leading assault teams. In the confusion, an Allied tank inadvertently ran over some of the wounded, stopping only when a Canadian captain blew its track off with a grenade. Other Canadians lacked any tank support at all.

After fighting their way off the beach, however, German resistance slowed immensely, and the march into the interior went quickly. In fact, the Canadians advanced further inland than either their American or British counterparts.

Though they didn’t quite meet their objective of taking Carpiquet airport, they captured several towns and linked up with the British on adjacent Gold Beach.

Sword Beach
Around midnight, British airborne troops, along with a battalion of Canadians, dropped behind enemy lines to secure the invasion’s eastern flank, just as the Americans were doing near Utah. Within minutes, they had taken hold of Pegasus Bridge over the Caen Canal and nearby Horsa Bridge over the River Orne.

Other airborne troops destroyed bridges over the River Dives to prevent German reinforcements from arriving, and they also took out a key German artillery battery in a bloody firefight. The British then landed on Sword at 7:25 a.m., around the same time as at Gold but before Juno.

Although moderate fire greeted them, they soon secured beach exits with the help of the “Funnies.” Moving inland, they connected with the airborne units but faced relatively strong resistance in farmyards and villages. In a late afternoon counterattack, German forces made it all the way to the beach in one location, only to be turned back.

The Allies would not be able to unite all five D-Day beaches until June 12.

Frank DeVita was in charge of lowering the ramp on the USS Samuel Chase on D-Day. The role would haunt him for the rest of his life.

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